This was inspired by a short section in one of Brian's home brewing books that talked about prickly pear meade being the best thing the author had ever brewed. This is a still meade - that is, no carbonation.

One of Raquel's friends has a house in Tucson in the middle of a natural desert area, covered with prickly pear cacti. We took some tongs and paper bags and collected quite a few in the Summer of 2002, when the fruit was ripe (enough for the meade, a batch of prickly pear syrup, and some prickly pear ice cream). We were picking little tiny cactus spines out of our hands, legs, and posteriors for several days thereafter.

I combined the recipe directive to "remove the spines" with a little knowledge of traditional Native American techniques (I have a background in anthropology) for doing so. I stood over a blazing fire on my patio in August, wearing long pants, long sleeves, and heavy gloves for protection, and roasted the spines off the fruit.

Holding the fruit in the fire with long tongs worked pretty well, except that I failed to notice that I was compressing a nerve in my hand. So, much of my right hand was numb for about 2 weeks.

The meade ended up with a smoky flavor, which may have been due, at least in part, to the roasting of the fruit.

I did not do any appropriate testing to determine the alcohol level. Anecdotally, it seems pretty high. Initially, the meade had a very strong flavor but, it has mellowed over time. As of Summer 2007, it has become quite deep and complex, almost like a port. Most of the normal folks who tried it early on have declined to sample it again. The other home brewers and craft brew aficionados who have tried it in the last year or so seem to have really enjoyed it, though.


15 August, 2002